CDC Ends Investigation Into Chicken Salmonella Outbreak That Sickened 129, But More Could Fall Ill

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The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that it ended its investigation into an ongoing Salmonella outbreak linked to various raw chicken products. It was unable to identify a common source during the outbreak that sickened dozens since it started in January last year, the agency said.

The multidrug-resistant outbreak strain, Salmonella Infantis, was linked to 129 illnesses across 32 states, with a reported 25 hospitalizations and one death in New York. The agency said that lab tests showed that “many types of raw chicken products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella Infantis and are making people sick.”

Veterinary epidemiologist Colin Basler with the CDC told Consumer Reports that the agency decided to halt the investigation into the outbreak because the number of reported cases had dipped. Basler said that if the CDC “saw a spike in new cases, we would certainly reopen the investigation.” However, Basler also told the outlet that more may be sickened “because this particular strain appears to be widespread in the chicken industry.”

The CDC said the strain was linked to raw chicken products intended for both people and pets as well as to live chickens. Though the agency was unable to determine a source for the outbreak, the CDC clarified that it isn’t advising people not to eat chicken but rather that consumers make sure it’s handled and prepared properly.

Together with the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the CDC said it was working with the chicken industry on identifying “ways to reduce Salmonella Infantis in chicken products.”

Amid the ongoing investigation last year, National Chicken Council (NCC) spokesperson Tom Super said that the chicken industry was “cooperating fully with the CDC and USDA in their investigation.” The NCC underscored at the time that no specific brand or company were linked to the outbreak.

“We take the safety of chicken very seriously — our families eat the same chicken as you and yours,” Super said in a statement in October. “Though we’ve collectively made tremendous progress in reducing Salmonella, the fact is raw chicken is not sterile, and any raw agricultural product, whether its fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat or poultry, is susceptible to naturally occurring bacteria that could make someone sick if improperly handled or cooked.”

The CDC recommends that consumers wash their hands before and after handling raw chicken, as well as cook chicken products thoroughly through to kill any germs that can lead to illness. The agency also advises avoiding feeding raw meat to pets.

[CDC via Consumer Reports]

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